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Trees planted at Earth Sanctuary as part of 500-year design

Jody Rubel plants cedar saplings this week at Earth Sanctuary in Freeland. - Gayle Saran
Jody Rubel plants cedar saplings this week at Earth Sanctuary in Freeland.
— image credit: Gayle Saran

One tree at a time, a privately-owned nature preserve in Freeland will become an old growth forest in about 500 years.

This week Jody Rubel was digging holes and filling them with dark, rich soil before planting western red cedar tree saplings that will grow into a forest at the 72-acre nature preserve called “Earth Sanctuary” on Newman Road east of Freeland.

Rubel won’t be around to see the results of his work, but he is inspired for future generations.

“We want to make this an old-growth forest filled with wildlife and native plants,” Rubel said as he leaned on his shovel and looked into the nearby wetland.

The privately owned property features three ponds, a 13,000-year-old wetland, and a number of recently built sacred spaces located along the trails.

Earth Sanctuary owners Chuck and Claudia Pettis have opened the property to the public, even as they work to preserve and restore the land for the next 500 years to come.

In 2001 the Pettis’ launched the 500-year plan for returning the site to an old-growth forest, not only teeming with native species of plants, bird and animals, but also with the spiritual power from installations of huge rock megaliths.

Ducks, geese, herons, osprey, eagles and a variety of smaller birds will call it home, largemouth bass and catfish will swim in the ponds, and cedars and firs will ring their borders.

Rubel points to the dozens of stakes with bright pink flags marking the locations for the new trees.

Along the road, non-native plants such as blackberries will be replaced with native plants to enhance the forest.

“We will be replacing non-native plants with ferns and salal,” said Rubel.

To date about 1,000 trees have been planted, with plans for another 3,000 during the next 10 years.

When Rubel isn’t planting trees, he is a songwriter and guitarist with Sister Monk Harem.

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